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Perhaps greater attention in the historical literature has gone to VisiCalc as the killer application (app) for personal computers, but electronic mail (email) was more influential in making computers desirable and essential throughout the developed world. In recent years, it is difficult to imagine life without email. Scholars are still in the early stages of understanding email's role in transforming communications in business, science, politics, and leisure. While society broadly began to use email for the first time in the 1990s, networked email was the unexpected killer app of the pioneering Arpanet community in the second half of the 1960s and early 1970s.
Email, of course, was not a single application, but an evolving set of standards and protocols. BBN Technologies' Craig Partridge, in the lead article of this issue, presents the story of these technical developments. Like others who have written on this topic, he uses RFC (Request For Comments) documents—which were created and exchanged through the Arpanet email environment by the principal architects and their colleagues—as a fundamental source. These RFCs represent one of the earliest examples of email documentation of a major scientific or technological project. A searchable archive of the networking community's RFCs is available at the Internet RFC/STD/FYI/BCP Archives at http://www.faqs.org/rfcs/.
Jack Dongarra, Gene Golub, Eric Grosse, Cleve Moler, and Keith Moore provide a further example on the importance of networked email (and other network tools) to advancing science and technology in their article on the history of Netlib and Numerical Analysis Net (NA-Net). Dongarra is also the focus of this issue's Biographies Department.
In the mid-1980s, Grosse and Dongarra opened Netlib repositories at Bell Laboratories and Argonne National Laboratory, respectively. These repositories distributed mathematical software by email. Also in the mid-1980s, Stanford University's Golub started NA-Net to provide a standard system for numerical analysts' email to facilitate communication and collaboration within this technical community. Shortly thereafter, Golub began the NA-Digest as an email-distributed publication, summarizing conferences, job openings, publications, and other information of interest to the numerical analysis community. After its first several years, Cleve Moler (of MathWorks) became editor of the NA-Digest and continued in this role for nearly two decades. An archive of the NA-Digest is available at http://www.Netlib.org/na-digest-html.
We were saddened to learn of Gene Golub's death in November 2007 and extend our best to his family and friends.
Historian Hunter Heyck takes us to an earlier period in examining the work of Herbert Simon. His insightful two-part essay explores the evolution of Simon's thought on the problem of choice and control in complex systems, and the relationship between Simon's earlier social scientific work and his later contributions to the fields of cognitive science and artificial intelligence.
I am pleased to announce that Eden Medina is joining the Editorial Board of the Annals. Eden is an assistant professor of informatics at Indiana University, and she also holds an adjunct appointment in the History Department. She was the recipient of last year's IEEE Life Member's Prize of the Society for the History of Technology for the best article in the history of electricity or electronics. She will be helping to manage the referee process as an associate editor for the IEEE Annals of the History of Computing. Her expertise in Latin American history of computing will also be of great benefit to the magazine. Additional announcements of new Editorial Board members are expected for the next issue.
It is also my pleasure to announce a couple new roles for existing Editorial Board members. Atsushi Akera is the new associate editor in chief. He will help manage the review process, as well as assist with the recruitment of articles and special issues. Luanne Johnson is now a consulting editor for the Annals. She will focus on recruiting articles from practitioners/pioneers on the history of the software and services industries. Finally, David Walden will be the new Anecdotes Department editor beginning with the next issue. I would like to thank Anne Fitzpatrick for her excellent work in taking on the editorship of this department over the past year.